Disney Braces With Wind Dancer Trio

Wind Dancer Production Group, the creative trio behind ABC’s “Home Improvement,” is back in the Disney fold, confirming a multifaceted movie, TV and theater deal with the studio.

The agreement renews Wind Dancer’s partnership with Disney, following a 21/2-year period during which the company has been principally allied with ABC under a two-series arrangement. Disney has served solely as the distributor on those programs.

Both Disney TV & Telecommunications chairman Richard Frank and Walt Disney Motion Picture Group chairman Joe Roth have been involved in forging Disney’s pact with Wind Dancer, whose principals are Matt Williams (who also created “Roseanne” and worked on “The Cosby Show”), David McFadzean and Carmen Finestra.

The multifaceted deal also represents a coup for Disney, since it follows an intense and public courtship of Williams by former Disney Studios chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, who wanted the company to get into business with his new company, DreamWorks SKG.

Katzenberg is friendly with Williams, and has taken credit for putting Williams together with Tim Allen on “Home Improvement,” a program expected to gross more than $600 million in syndication. Wind Dancer, however, apparently felt the economics of aligning with DreamWorks – currently lacking a studio framework for distribution and other areas – make less sense at this point for an established company that can make deals on its own.

Part of the agreement will involve what the parties described as a substantial feature component, with two movie concepts already in the works: “Ump,” a Hollywood Pictures comedy written by Elisa Bell from a story by Billy Riback and Marilyn Anderson; and “Since I Fell for You,” a romantic comedy, based on a concept from Williams, currently being rewritten by Michael Kalesniko. Wind Dancer previously produced the 1991 Disney release “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken,” which Williams co-wrote and produced.

In terms of television, Wind Dancer is producing a spinoff from “Home Improvement,” tentatively titled “Buddies.” Its first series under the company’s joint venture with ABC, “Thunder Alley,” returns to the schedule next week.

Though ABC is expected to give “Buddies” a three-week test run in April following “Home Improvement,” relations have at times been strained under that partnership, with Williams openly criticizing ABC’s move of “Improvement” to Tuesday opposite “Frasier.”

For that reason, there’s speculation that Wind Dancer may look elsewhere after fulfilling its series commitments at ABC.

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